Friday, May 23, 2008

Chelsea v Manchester Utd Champions League Final in Moscow

Close but no cigar for Roman.

The dream scenario - to see his club win the Champions League in his home country.

Perfect. But it was not to be.

The Build Up.........

A dramatic final watched by 70,000 in the stadium, including around 40,000 travelling from the UK , certainly upheld the reputation of the Premier League for excitement.

Due to the numbers travelling it was no wonder the Russian authorities decided to relax the rules and allow match ticket holders into Russia without visas.

Even so this visitor endured a wait of over one and a half hours in passport control at Sheremetevo airport.

Based on a general wander around central Moscow and from acnecdotal evidence it was clear that there were more fans of Man Utd in the city and this was borne out by their larger presence inside the stadium. They generally outshouted the flag waving London based supporters.

By the time the game started , after a short but effective opening presentation , it was the latest kick off (10.45pm) that this correspondent had ever witnessed and somehow it was sure to happen that it would go on and on - finally ending at around 1.30 am.
But Moscow was not too cold although the heavy rain made it a very damp walk back to the metro after the game.

The rainstorms also disrupted flights the following day - in my case by some 5 hours.

The Game...

Manchester Utd led by superstar Ronaldo (at times memerising in possession) generally controlled the first half. He caused numerous problems for Michael Essien playing, out of position, at right back.

To cap his performance the man from Madeira headed home a Scholes cross to give the league champions the advantage.

But the equaliser by Frank Lampard near the end of the half , though fortunate, set up an intriguing battle from then on.

Chelsea bouyed by their equaliser put United under pressure in the 2nd half, hitting the bar (Lampard) and post (Drogba)

So we moved towards extra time , penalties and the dénouement.

Prior to that Didier Drogba raised a hand to Vidic after some difference of opinion and his slap though relatively innocuous gave the referee no choice but to send him off and hence he would not take part in the penalty shoot out. This action may well have had an impact (no pun intended) on the result as he presumably would have been one of the first five penalty takers.

Misster chelsea - hero & zero........

Inevitably for Mr Chelsea such an ending by definition magnifies and focussing so much attention on one person - you step up , as the captain and blast the ball into the net .....perfect for Roman Abramovich - to fulfil his dream and win the Champions League in his home country.

But John Terry, for it is he, slipped whilst shooting and the ball glanced off the post.

So a reprieval for Ronaldo , who had missed first , going from hero to zero and back again.

Somehow Nicolas Anelka missing at the end couldn't divert the focus from John Terry - it was his nightmare moment - no wonder he shed a tear or two.

for more pics see

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